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November 1st, 2014

The Putin System **1/2

Available on DVD and iTunes

 

The founding fathers did a darn good job of preventing dictators from taking over the United States.

Our system of federalism, separation of power, and regular elections makes it exceptionally difficult for one man to grab the reigns of power and single-handedly change the country.

This is something to be thankful for. Because clearly not every country was established with such forward-thinking protection against tyranny.

Russia sure wasn’t. Russia has had a long history of ruthless dictators. Russia was once ruled by a monarch who is nicknamed “The Terrible;” and he wasn’t even one of the country’s most terrible rulers.

The latest Russian dictator, of course, is Vladimir Putin.

French filmmaker Jean-Michel Carre is obsessed, horrified, and frightened by Russia’s current president.

“The Putin System” tells the complex and impressive story about how a humble Soviet civil servant rose to become the most powerful man in the unFree World.

The film emphasizes that Putin began his career in the Soviet KGB. There he learned the philosophy that everything and everyone you can’t control is dangerous. So control everything you can, and eliminate everyone you can’t. That kind of sounds like simple Dictatorship 101 material, but Carre is convinced that the KGB made Putin cunning, diabolical, and evil.

The more enlightening portion of the documentary explores Vladimir Putin’s innovative use of Russia’s gigantic state oil and natural gas company, Gazprom.

Carre convincingly argues that the most powerful weapons in Putin’s arsenal aren’t nationalism or nuclear arms; they’re money and oil.

When a powerful businessman in Russia chooses not to cooperate with Moscow, Putin forces him to leave the country and then incorporates the exiled man’s companies into Gazprom.

For example, when a Russian media mogul spent too much airtime criticizing the Kremlin, Putin kicked the dissident out and started broadcasting his own propaganda on the exiled businessman’s television networks.

Carre’s assertion that Putin has turned Russia from a democracy into a tyranny is fair. But when Carre repeatedly likens Putin to Joseph Stalin, that is going way too far. Putin’s political enemies get forcefully asked to leave; Stalin’s enemies were murdered or sent to Gulags. When Putin had a problem with Ukraine, he pressured them by withholding fuel and peacefully took over a Russian-speaking portion of their country. When Stalin had a beef with Ukraine, he created a man-made famine that killed 5 million Ukrainians.

And though I can’t argue that Russia’s corrupt oligarchy isn’t bad for the Russian people, I don’t understand people who claim that it is bad for the United States.

I don’t view Russia as our enemy at all. Despite what Sarah Palin may think, we are very far away from Russia and its sphere of influence. Russia hasn’t tried to install missiles in the Western Hemisphere for half a century.

The anti-Russia crowd will point to the fact that the Kremlin has a positive working relationship with Iran. However, based on the way things are going in the region, Iran appears to be the most stable regime in the Middle East. Instead of criticizing Putin for working with Tehran diplomatically, we should probably try to follow his lead.

To be clear, I’m only arguing that Russia doesn’t have to be our enemy and that Putin isn’t nearly as bad as Stalin. I’m not inviting him here to rule our country. I’m grateful that the United States never has autocratic dictators. Thanks again, founding fathers.

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